BUFFALO – As the son of a former Sabres coach, winger Jordan Nolan’s memories of his new team and this area are special.
As a child in the 1990s, Nolan sometimes tagged along with his father, Ted Nolan, to the rink. Years later, when the Sabres brought the elder Nolan back for a second run, Jordan proudly watched the news conference inside KeyBank Center.
Buffalo, Jordan Nolan said, has “kind of shaped our lives.”
“Buffalo’s been nothing but good to our family,” Nolan said this afternoon following his first practice with the Sabres. “I guess third time’s the charm for the Nolan family.”
Of course, Ted Nolan was fired twice, never lasting longer than two seasons. Jordan Nolan, 28, hopes his run here lasts longer.
In search of some size, grit and leadership, the Sabres claimed the 6-foot-3, 219-pound Nolan off waivers Wednesday from the Los Angeles Kings.
Nolan, who knew his time with the Kings was ending, said it “was pretty crazy” the Sabres grabbed him. He lives just across the Ontario border in the summer.
“A lot of memories here,” said Nolan, who won two Stanley Cups with the Kings. “I live over in St. Catharines in the offseason, a lot of my friends and family in this area.”
What does Nolan offer the Sabres?
“I play with a lot of heart and intensity,” he said. “I’ve been part of a winning team there for years. I just kind of bring some experience. I’m not expecting to change the world or anything.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley likes Nolan’s physical style and ability to get in on the forecheck.
“For a big guy, he really moves well,” Housley said. “So it’ll be good to see him being the first forward down, playing physical, coming up with pucks. He’s got a big frame. I think one of the things when you watch him is he protects the puck real well because he’s hard to defend, and that can wear down defenses.”
Nolan, who recently returned from the Kings’ trip to China, wants to play in Friday’s preseason finale here against the New York Islanders. Housley, however, wouldn’t commit to dressing him.
With the long flight home and waivers, Nolan went six days without skating before today.
Clearly, Nolan needed a change of scenery after seven seasons with the Kings.
“My time was up in L.A.,” he said. “They knew that and I knew that. I needed a fresh start, and I’m pretty happy here in Buffalo.”
Why did Nolan know it was over in Los Angeles?
“Playing time, the feeling I was getting from the coaching staff, management,” he said. “I don’t think we saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I just think we kind of both agreed it wasn’t going to work out for me.”
Nolan has already talked to his father, who’s overseas coaching Poland’s national team.
“Once he heard the news, he was pretty happy, pretty emotional,” he said. “They live in St. Catharines right now. I think he’s just happy to have me closer to home.”
Wearing No. 17, Nolan practiced on the left with center Jacob Josefson and Johan Larsson.
Nolan’s old number, 71, wasn’t available.
“It’s time for a fresh start,” he said.
In other news, the Sabres sent winger Nick Baptiste, 22, to the Rochester Americans today.
“Nick had a slow start in the Prospects Challenge (rookie tournament),” Housley said. “I think his game carried forward. That’s why he was here up to this point. He’s a big kid.”
Housley said he wants Baptiste to “do things quicker.”
“Certainly, a future player for us,” he said. “We need depth at the wing position, for sure.”
After scoring a goal Thursday in what Housley called his best game, Sabres defenseman Victor Antipin skated on the No. 1 pair beside Rasmus Ristolainen today.
Antipin, 24, has quickly been picking up Housley’s system and North American hockey after spending his entire career in Russia.
“It had to be difficult for him with the language and coming to a new country and learning our system,” Housley said. “Those things take some time. His game against Pittsburgh last game was his best game by far. (He) defended well, he had a good stick, he had good inside body position, a good first pass, he got up the ice, which we want him to do.”
Update: The Sabre sent goalie Linus Ullmark to the Amerks this afternoon.